Naser Koshan

The Essence of National Security Councils


Since the very early days of the 21st century, National Security Councils are an integral part of western democracies. The institution that staffs a very limited high ranking cabinet members and a handful of security experts entails the duty to consolidate, analyze, and eventually advise the head of state on national security and foreign policy matters.

As we speak the world order has changed, unilateralism is gradually substituted with emerging economic and military de facto powers. Russia, China and India are on the verge of becoming potential players when it comes to the United States’ foreign policy ambitions. Evidently to stay relevant and triumphant in international engagements, there is no exception to having a clear-cut and well-designed foreign policy strategy in place. This in itself requires a robust and well-informed National security team with expertise and diligence at its core at home.

The United States’ National Security Council was established under the National Security Act of 1947 during President Truman’s presidency. The council is consisting of seven full members, with the president acting as the chairman. The NSC advisor handpicked by the president is directly advising and reporting to the commander-in-chief on homeland and foreign policy issues. General H.R. McMaster acts as the current NSC advisor to President Trump. The National Security Council is an equivalent body to the United Nation’s National Security Council (UNSC), operating domestically, tasked to sketch and oversee foreign policy and economic interests of a given country as its top priority. It is vitality at such caliber, that the U.S. presidents undergo a vigorous selection process, to handpick their National Security team often prior to officially entering the White House and forming the cabinet. It is worth mentioning that in robust western democracies all major decisions are taken within the National Security Council with the NSC advisor acting as a liaison among all federal law enforcing agencies, the intelligence bureau and state department officials to the president.   

As we all know, the very first priorities for any sitting administration is a steadfast focus on economic nourishment and political stability. The leadership is tasked to form institutions in fulfilling their campaign promises. National Security is the prime ceiling in achieving all these tangible milestones, it is apparent that sans a healthy National Security team, any social and economic reform vividly goes at vain. It is compulsory that any incumbent president form a formidable, proactive security council, equipped with expertise and know how when it comes to challenges and opportunities both within and outside a respective country.

Intrinsically, third world states are more prone to socio-political crisis that rapidly disrupts national stability and economic endeavors. Formidable public institutions greatly alleviate the cost and time lagging that otherwise will sank the whole nation in misery and chaos. National Security certainly tops the chart in this matter.

For instance, Afghanistan has had a turbulent reputation of political instability and foreign funded insurgency dilemma throughout its contemporary history. Indirect foreign invasions and devastating domestic quarrels have brought a tremendous amount of misery, and misfortune for the resident population.

Furthermore, when we study Afghanistan in any socio-economic or political perspectives, it stands alone in realm of exceptions. The so called political elites and state institutions are exceptionally engaged in activities that can hardly be seen in any other parallel or homogenous institutions and entities tasked with the same mandates around the world. The Afghan National Security Council is no exception to this theory. The very institution is often criticized for supporting and harmonizing in igniting ethnic rivalries among resident ethnicities.  The government and its security heads are openly challenged by its own sitting governors and powerful individuals for mischievous plans to destabilize the relatively stable provinces and intentionally following a demeaning policy of dividing insecurity and poverty on certain geographic domains in the north. In spite of all these speculations, at least on paper, the country is striving in reforming its security apparatuses and bringing in young educated professionals to gradually reshape and most importantly consolidate their commonly shared mandates.  In today’s day in age it is quite evident that effective, publically accepted and highly disciplined security establishments guarantee a prosperous economic growth and long-term political stability.

Naturally global powers and regional players have the tendency to leverage weaker nations both politically and ideologically, strategic economic interests force them to tame such nations with benign and malign approaches. The National Security Council shall have the prudency and expertise required to balance out any probable conflict of interest arising at such circumstance, and utilize the opportunity to safeguard national security and guarantee political stability.

After 9/11, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were facing similar scenarios as Today’s Afghanistan. Both countries had to switch sides and join the U.S. led coalition in overthrowing the very same Taliban regime that once represented their ideological and strategic interests. The Taliban regime that once enjoyed millions in aid from the two, were no longer a key factor in their respective National Security interests, especially when the former U.S. president George W. Bush clearly reprimanded both countries that “you’re either with us or with the enemy”. Prudency and rationality do always succeed when it comes to national security.

Last but not least with the growing changes in regional alliances in south Asia, regardless of any economic and geographic sizes, countries are morally obligated to safeguard their national interests and trade-off older partnerships for newer friendships. National Security councils will have an even bigger role in adopting policies, to effectively cope with the changing environment, and score aces for its own constituencies in the upcoming future.

Author: Naser Koshan

Washington U.S.

March 2018

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